For most of my adult life I have lived in big cities, and that means never having the need to own a car (even though I have a driving license). My own bicycle is my normal way around Berlin where I currently live, with public transport (U-Bahn and S-Bahn mostly) as the main backup.
But what about the multitude of new mobility solutions?
I’ve steadily been joining the new “Smart Mobility” schemes for a few years now, meaning I now have accounts and mobile apps – for Berlin alone! – with ? Donkey, Lidl-Bike, Mobike and Nextbike, ?⚡️ Lime, ?⚡️ Circ, Lime, Tier and Voi, ?⚡️Coup and Emmy, ? share Cambio, Car2Go, DriveNow, Drivy, Flinkster, Miles, Oply, Sixt Share, Ubeeqo and WeShare, ? BerlKönig, CleverShuttle and Free Now, and ???? BVG and VBB. The only ones I am missing at the time of writing are Jump (I don’t want to give Uber my data) and StadtMobil Carsharing (signup can’t be done online).
But that means I have a rather ridiculous 25 apps on my phone – for Berlin alone. That is not smart!
So enter mobility apps that allow you to compare the offers of these providers and in some cases even book within the app.
At the moment there are five such apps seeking to solve this conundrum in Berlin that I will review here:
BerlinMobil (iOS | Android | Website)
Free2Move (iOS | Android | Website)
Jelbi (iOS | Android | Website)
REACH NOW (iOS | Android | Website) – formerly Moovel
urbi (iOS | Android | Website)
Jelbi has the best app experience and will improve further, and urbi covers the most providers. Go for those!
While the basics are the same in each case – mobility offers presented on a map – the apps vary in three crucial ways.
- Registration systems – no connection to the original provider, direction to the provider’s own app, connect an account with a provider that exists already, or register a new account with the provider direct in the app
- Payment systems – no system of payment, payment via the provider’s own app, or payment directly in the multi-mode app
- Navigation assistance – GPS to only locate stops or vehicles, destination search (from where I am to there) with price calculation, or full route planning with price calculation
BerlinMobil is the most basic app. It has no connection whatsoever to the original providers and accounts you might have with those, and it has no way to make any payments. Its primary purpose is the provision of information. It offers full route planning with price calculation, although its address search is not as accurate as the other two apps that have this. It has no payment system.
Free2Move provides the most detailed and multi-faceted system to connect with providers – it can provide direction to the provider’s own app, connect accounts with providers that exists already, and allow registration of a new account with the provider direct in the app. However it has no own payment system (payments only via the individual providers). And it has no route planning – it uses GPS to tell you only where vehicles are located and cannot calculate the cost of your trip.
Jelbi acts completely as a stand alone app. It does not allow you to connect to accounts that you already have with providers – your account with Jelbi connects with providers directly in its app. Having done that it then takes payments directly in the app, and offers full route planning with a price calculation, and even allows you to buy the full range of Berlin public transport tickets and passes. Payments can be made in the app using Credit Cards and SEPA Lastschrift.
REACH NOW allows connection to accounts you already have with some providers. With some providers it directs you to their apps to make the booking and payments, and others it allows the booking and payment directly within its own app. It also offers full route calculation with a price calculation. Payments can be made in the app using Credit Cards and PayPal.
urbi has no own registration system for providers – it either allows the connection of already existing accounts, or directs you to other apps on your phone. It also has no own payment system – all payments are processed by providers. It offers a one way navigation system – the departure point is set by the GPS of your phone, while you can manually choose a destination. A time and price calculation is provided.
But what about the data in the apps? How many providers can these apps cover? Here is where it gets complex! This table provides an overview!
? Vehicle position shown
⏱ Reserve vehicle (brackets denote this is done with a link to a different app)
? Payment possible (brackets denote this is done with a link to a different app)
|? Donkey||?, (⏱), (?)||?, (⏱), (?)|
|? Lidl-Bike||?, ⏱, (?)|
|? Mobike||?, (⏱), (?)|
|? Nextbike||?||?, (⏱), (?)||?, ⏱, ?||?, ⏱, ?||?, ⏱, (?)|
|?⚡️ Jump||?, (⏱), (?)|
|?⚡️ Lime||?, (⏱), (?)|
|?⚡️ Circ||?, (⏱), (?)||?, (⏱), (?)|
|?⚡️ Lime||?, (⏱), (?)|
|?⚡️ Tier||?, (⏱), (?)||?, (⏱), (?)|
|?⚡️ Voi||?, (⏱), (?)||?, (⏱), (?)|
|?⚡️ Coup||?, ⏱, (?)||?, ⏱, (?)|
|?⚡️ Emmy||?, ⏱, (?)||?, ⏱, ?||?, ⏱, (?)|
|? Cambio||?, (⏱), (?)|
|? Car2Go||?||?, ⏱, (?)||?, ⏱, ?||?, ⏱, (?)|
|? DriveNow||?||?, (⏱), (?)|
|? Drivy||?, (⏱), (?)|
|? Flinkster||?, ⏱, (?)|
|? Miles||?, ⏱, ?||?, ⏱, (?)|
|? Oply||?, (⏱), (?)|
|? SixtShare||?, (⏱), (?)|
|? StadtMobil||?, ⏱, (?)|
|? Ubeeqo||?, ⏱, (?)||?, (⏱), (?)|
|? WeShare||?, (⏱), (?)|
|? CleverShuttle||?, (⏱), (?)|
|? FREE NOW||?, (⏱), (?)||?|
|Live departure times||Live departure times, route planning, cost and ticket purchase||Live departure times, route planning, and cost||Live departure times, route planning, and cost|
BerlinMobil performs worst here – only 3 providers, and then only the most basic information. There is some basic public transport information too.
Free2Move has the second highest number of providers, and has two ways to integrate them – for some reservations are possible within the app. However it has no public transport data at all.
Jelbi has only 3 providers and public transport, but it scores top marks for all of them – the integration of all of them is impeccable, down to the ability to pay in the app itself, even for public transport tickets.
REACH NOW is on the way to full integration, but this does not work for all providers yet. It also provides reasonable public transport information.
urbi has more providers than any other app – by some distance – and even some that no other app has yet managed to cover. It covers 18 of the 25 providers in Berlin. The problem is that its integration of these is weaker, and it cannot process payments in the app itself.
BerlinMobil has a couple of neat extra pieces of data – it lists electric car charging points and roadworks. It is only available in Berlin. Browsing the map was the slowest of all the apps tested.
Free2Move operates in two dozen European cities across 11 countries (full list on the map on its homepage) – handy for travellers!
Jelbi is a product of Berlin public transport authority BVG but is developed by Lithuanian firm Trafi, but the other cities where Trafi operates are not integrated into Jelbi. Some Jelbi physical stations are being built in Berlin (scroll down the Jelbi site here). There is also the prospect that more providers will be added in future, and when they are added they quick for users to activate. Jelbi’s maps show the areas where vehicles can and cannot be left as overlays when booking – the only app to offer this, and an essential feature to avoid fines for leaving vehicles in the wrong places.
REACH NOW is part of the SHARE NOW / FREE NOW / REACH NOW ecosystem from BMW and Daimler, and so integration of car share options (esp DriveNow) ought to improve. The way it displays providers on the map is done provider by provider – this makes the maps easier to read than those from other apps, but at the cost of losing an overview. The app operates in a dozen or so cities across Europe, but is strongest in Germany
urbi operates in roughly 20 cities across Europe, with especial density in Italy.
While it might, for now, cover just 4 providers, Jelbi has the best app experience from the user point of view. As more providers are added, with the deep integration model it uses, this will become the app for Berlin mobility. It also integrates public transport better than any other app. urbi offers such an extraordinary array of providers, it wins if you are a smart mobility junkie, and that it works across Europe is handy. Free2Move and REACH NOW fall somewhere in between – deeper integration than urbi but not as impressive as Jelbi. BerlinMobil is the most basic of all the apps, so unless you need roadworks information or locations of electric car charging points it is not recommended.
[19.7.2019, 0950] On Twitter Martin-Zack Mekkaoui reminded me of Citymapper’s data integrations. A quick check shows that Citymapper has some data for Car2Go, Coup, Emmy and Nextbike in it, plus good public transport maps. I will add Citymapper to this review when I update the post in the future.